Ireland’s food culture has experienced a profound grassroots revolution in recent decades with local producers, chefs, writers and consumers celebrating Irish food with unprecedented confidence. A primary agent of change has been the parallel emergence of a digital culture and the related food communities that the internet and social media have helped to foster both online and offline. Visual representations of food experiences have become powerful social signifiers in a global context; in an Irish context, they have also helped to reshape a modern national identity and provide positive expressions of local culture in the wake of a devastating global recession. Ireland’s pub culture, conversely, has been slower to respond to these opportunities for digital communication and community-building, in part because embodied communication and community as Oldenberg’s Third Place have long been at the heart of the Irish pub experience. Furthermore, unlike Ireland’s nascent food culture, Irish pub culture is well-established, deeply embedded within national identity and evolving at a significantly slower pace. This paper will explore the lessons that Irish publicans can learn from digital-literate food and drink cultures. It will also suggest further attributes inherent in Irish pub culture, such as its role as an incubator of the national flair for storytelling and a disseminator of Irish literary arts, and examine how these might be reframed and better exploited for a digital age.
Aoife Carrigy is currently undertaking a Masters of Art by Research on 'Cultural Representations of the Irish Pub' under the co-supervision of Dr Brian Murphy and Dr Eamon Maher, both of the National Centre for Franco-Irish Studies at the Institute of Technology Tallaght (www.it-tallaght.ie/ncfis), which is a member of the Technological University of Dublin Alliance. She holds a BA (majoring in English Literature and Philosophy) and MA in Anglo-Irish Literature, both from University College Dublin, as well as a WSET Level 3 Award. Her research examines the relationship between Irish culture and identity and the Irish pub as a key signifier of Irishness. Aoife is Drinks Editor of Image Interiors & Living, and a regular contributor to national newspapers and magazines as a freelance journalist specialising in food, beverages, travel and the arts. She has lectured in journalism (Independent College Dublin) and literature and communications (Dublin Business School). Aoife is also Out-going Chair of the Irish Food Writers' Guild, is a member of judging panels of several industry awards, has been employed as an industry expert by Fáilte Ireland (the national tourism board), Bord Bia (the national food board) and various commercial retailers and has organised gastronomy-related consumer events such as the Dublin Wine Fest, the Irish Cider & Food Day and the For Food's Sake series.